On Thursday, House Bill 1608, the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, passed its third reading in the House of Representatives 65-29.

The bill met with a loud public protest on Monday when it was in the House Education Committee, and its passage in the House Thursday also drew criticism from, among others, Katie Blair, advocacy and public policy director for the ACLU of Indiana, which had organized the earlier gathering.

“LGBTQ families in Indiana will not be erased and we will be out in force if and when this bill is heard in the Senate,” she said.

The bill, authored by Rep. Michelle Davis, R-Whiteland, prohibits schools from teaching “human sexuality” to children in kindergarten through third grade and creates rules around the names and identifiers children may use at school.

Under the bill, if a child requested to be called a name or use pronouns differing from their biological sex, school employees could only comply if the child had a written request from a parent or was an emancipated minor. Even if the child met those stipulations, the employee could refuse to honor the child’s request without repercussions.

The bill also would require schools to notify a child’s parents if the child made such a request.

Rep. Tonya Pfaff, D-Terre Haute, asked what kind of message it would send to students if a teacher refused to use a child’s chosen name. Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, referenced the testimony heard on Monday from individuals who described knowing they were “different” at the early ages of 5 and 6.

“Our children are becoming more aware of who they are and what their preferences are,” Smith said.

Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, later issued a statement saying, “If there is one thing I own in this world, it’s my name. Everyone owns their name. We should not license our teachers to ignore that key right.”

Gabby Doyle, advocacy campaigns manager at the Trevor Project, cited the advocacy organization’s research into the vulnerability of LGTBQ youth in a press release Thursday.

“The Trevor Project’s research found that 45% of LGBTQ youth in Indiana seriously considered suicide in the past year,” she said. “However, research has also consistently found that LGBTQ students who have access to LGTBQ-affirming schools, and trans and nonbinary students who have support from their teachers and peers, report lower rates of suicide risk.

“We urge lawmakers to reject this harmful bill and, instead, work to create school environments in which all students have the opportunity to thrive.”

A related bill that would ban minors from receiving gender-affirming medical care passed the Senate Health and Provider Services Committee on Wednesday. Authored by Sen. Tyler Johnson, R-Leo, Senate Bill 480 would stop transgender children under 18 from receiving gender-affirming medical assistance, whether it be surgeries, hormonal therapy or other medication.

The bills are part of a spate of restrictive LGTBQ-related legislation working through the Indiana General Assembly and in statehouses around the country. The ACLU put the number at 120 bills nationwide so far this year.

Xain Ballenger is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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